March 31, 1998
On March 30, the Cyprus government hailed the forthcoming start of Cyprus' accession negotiations with the European Union (EU), describing it as "historic". It also called on all political parties for unity and cooperation for a successful completion of the accession course and said it will keep a close eye on Turkish reactions related to the start of the Cyprus-EU accession talks.
In a statement, read by Government Spokesman, Christos Stylianides, "the government considers an historic event the forthcoming accession negotiations between the EU and the Cyprus Republic," and points out that as from March 30 "a new era starts for both the country's political and social life".
The European Union opened on 31 March membership talks with the Republic of Cyprus, noting that progress in these talks and the peace effort towards a negotiated settlement would reinforce each other.
Outlining the EU position, Council President, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, said Cyprus and the EU are "partners" in this effort and have the same objective, namely to make these negotiations a success.
Cook, speaking at the first session of the intergovernmental conference for Cyprus' accession, allowed room for "transitional measures" in the case of Cyprus, but only in exceptional circumstances and with a time limit in mind.
Furthermore, the EU President expressed regret that the Turkish Cypriots have so far taken a negative stand on an offer for participation in the accession talks and stressed the Union's resolve to "pursue the necessary contacts" with them. In his opening statement, Cook said "a political settlement would allow the provisions of the Accession Treaty to be implemented throughout the island." "Progress towards accession and towards a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem will naturally reinforce each other," he pointed out, reaffirming "full support" for UN efforts to reach a negotiated settlement.
The Union expressed "regret" that a political solution has not been achieved in time for the accession negotiations and added "Cyprus' accession should benefit all communities, including the Turkish Cypriot community and help to bring about civil peace and reconciliation on the island." "Our objective remains a bicommunal, bizonal federation on the basis of a comprehensive political settlement in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions," he added.
Welcoming the Cyprus Government's offer to include Turkish Cypriot representatives in the team for negotiating the terms of accession, the EU said it regrets the "Turkish Cypriot community has so far responded negatively to this offer." The offer, submitted through the British presidency, has been described by the EU president Robin Cook as "fair and generous."
EU Commission Vice-president, Hans Van den Broek, told the Brussels meeting a successful enlargement is one of the main "political priorities" in the years ahead and assured applicant countries that progress towards membership would depend on the applicants' conformity.
A British court rejected a recourse by Turkish Cypriot organizations urging Britain to prevent Cyprus' negotiations to enter the European Union. The case was brought against the British government at the High Court by a group of Turkish Cypriot organizations, demanding that Britain intervene so that the Cyprus government is prevented from starting entry negotiations for accession to the EU.
The illegal parliament in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus approved in March, a "resolution" rejecting peace negotiations and Turkish Cypriot participation in the European Union (EU) accession talks.
The "resolution", supported only by right-wing parties backing Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, sets the recognition of the illegal entity in the areas occupied by Turkey since it invaded the island in 1974, as a precondition.
Meanwhile Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash struck another blow to efforts for a settlement in Cyprus, saying that negotiations between the two communities are "off". Mr. Denktash blamed the Cyprus government and the European Union (EU) for the deadlock in the peace talks and reiterated his demand that the illegal regime in the Turkish-occupied areas is recognized.
However, a top UN official said he would continue with his efforts to find common ground between the two sides that would enable them to resume negotiations for a settlement.
The Cyprus government expects UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to point out to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, that the current situation in Cyprus cannot continue for ever. Government Spokesman, Christos Stylianides, stressed that "ways should be found for effective pressure towards the Turkish Cypriot side to return to the negotiating table for a solution to the Cyprus problem."
A UN effort to bring the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders back to the negotiating table has not yielded any results because of a Turkish Cypriot demand to change the status of the two interlocutors in future talks. The Special Adviser of the UN Secretary General Mr. Diego Cordovez, who visited Cyprus in mid March, will now seek guidance from the Security Council on how to proceed.
"We need guidance from the Security Council as how to proceed. For the time being it is not possible to resume the negotiations and that creates a very serious problem for the Secretary-General," Cordovez said.
UN Secretary-General and his Cyprus envoys are bound by the existing Security Council resolutions in their efforts to settle the protracted Cyprus problem, Mr. Diego Cordovez said. He said if any of the two interlocutors wants changes to the current mandate, he shall have to apply to the Security Council.